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WISH YOU WERE HERE, 1975

Lead Vocal: Bobby Cohen

"...one of our best songs."

             -- David Gilmour

Rock was getting fragmented into sub-genres and sub-markets. Styles and sounds explored by the bands of the early and mid 6os were being pushed to the extreme, with artists specializing in ever narrower niches. Glam Rock, Heavy Metal, and Prog Rock were three of the more indulgent and often popular mid-7os offspring of what used to be just Rock music.

Prog Rock (progressive rock) is generally identified by one or both of two elements: i) A focus on "concept albums" (rather than individual songs or singles) and deep, meaningful, and obscure (a.k.a. pretentious) lyrics like those of Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues, or Muse.  ii) Technical mastery of instruments; long instrumental interludes often with jazz or classical influences - as played by bands like Yes or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. King Crimson probably exemplifies both styles.

In my view Pink Floyd is the only one of these bands that consistently transcends the time and age when the music was created. They started out in the late 6os as a psychedelic jam band writing pseudo-intellectual ditties mostly penned by founder and original leader Syd Barret. Syd left the band after a couple of albums due to mental illness and excessive hallucinogen use and Roger Waters slowly took creative control.

 

Following Roger's vision, they had a pretty remarkable stretch of creative and commercial success from 1973 to 1979, starting with Dark Side Of the Moon and ending with The Wall. My favorites however, are the middle two: Wish You Were Here (also David Gilmour' s favorite) and Animals. Both these albums have simpler musical arrangements and the songs have a more direct approach to big social issues.

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Wish You Were Here deals with personal as well as larger socio-economical issues. The title song and "Shine On" are both about Syd Barret, while "Have a Cigar" and "Welcome to the Machine" are indirect criticisms of the music industry. The subsequent Animals is a full-blown diatribe against the military-industrial complex with a "pig-ified" version of Trump floating above most Roger Waters concerts even today.

"Wish You Were Here" itself was a close collaboration between Roger Waters (lyrics) and David Gilmour (music). It's both a paean to Syd Barret and an inward-looking exhortation to step out of one's comfort zone. Apparently Syd showed up in the studio when they were recording, but he had gained 50 pounds and shaved off his hair and eyebrows - so nobody recognized him!

 

The chord structure is straight forward, with Gilmour's scat singing adding simple, yet powerful interest. We do a hat-tip at the start with the (grand) parental call to India. Bobby gets to try his hand at scat singing, I canoodle on the slide guitar deep in the mix, and Parthiv flexes his bass chops as the song progresses.

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Roger Waters @The Coachella fairgrounds, 2016